For Plato the ancient wisdom held by the Seven Sages originated, not in sophisticated Miletus or even in holy Delphi, but rather in Sparta. According to the Athenian, the Seven Sages

all emulated and admired and were students of Spartan education, [and one] could tell their wisdom was of this sort by the brief but memorable remarks they each uttered when they met and jointly the first fruits of their wisdom to Apollo in his shrine at Delphi, writing what is on every man’s lips: Know thyself, and Nothing too much. Why do I say this? Because this was the manner of philosophy among the ancients, a kind of laconic brevity (Protagoras, 342e–343b; emphasis added to the latter phrase).

Since the Greeks as a whole stood with Plato in holding up Spartan education and society as a towering ideal, the question arises: Is there any connection between the Spartan paideia and the mytheme we have termed Indo-European homogenesis?

We can observe a possible analogue to oral laconic brevity in the Spartan tradition of marriage. On his wedding night the Spartan husband is led into a darkened nuptial chamber where the wife is already lying. The latter’s hair has been closely shorn and the garb of a Spartan warrior has been festooned over her frame. The subdued lighting, along with the manly coiffure and apparel, all bespeak an attempt to shield the Spartan male from the reality that he is engaging in the most intimate of yokings with, of all things, a woman! The laconically brief encounter is not followed by any honeymoon worth the name, however, as the husband must immediately depart for his sacred mess hall, the syssition, where only males are allowed, and where all relations, sexual and otherwise, are free from the baleful presence of women. In the syssition it is the norm for a male child to be wooed by an older man, the spermatic logos being passed from man to child, generation after generation.

It thus appears that Spartans saw conjugal intercourse as a dangerous yet essential event. The male risks being polluted through contact with the woman, the idiosyncratic Spartan notion of wisdom and justice being eminently seminal. That is, following the I-E homogenetic mytheme inherited from their Scytho-Dorian ancestors, the Spartans viewed generation or reproduction as an all-male affair, as a heroic human reflection of the gods’ ability to reproduce avaginally (i.e., Zeus’ ejaculation of Athena through his “thigh,” etc.) [1]. The Laconians valued the product of vaginal birth—ideally the future Spartan citizen-soldier—above all things. However, the Spartans’ attitudes toward both the act of male-female intercourse and the event of vaginal birth were at best ambivalent, and at worst strongly negative.

Education in Laconia was focused on the syssition, where youths shared bowls of “black soup” (pork stewed in vinegar and pig blood) and listened to their elders speak of the wise deeds of Spartan heroes. Otherwise, they trained for war, the discipline being of such severity that some perished before they could complete their course. During the periodic wars for which they spent their lives training, Spartan men feminized and beautified their appearances, readying themselves to emulate their models—Castor and Pollux—who forsook death and even bent the highest laws of heaven in order to retain loving contact each with the other. We may here remember that Castor and Pollux were latter-day expressions of the I-E Divine Twins (known in the Hellenic tradition as the Dioskouri), and that the Spartans’ standard oath—“by the two gods”—refers to the Twins [2]. Much more could be said here about Castor and Pollux, but suffice to say that the Spartans’ unique dual kingship probably originated in an attempt to mirror in earthly society the martial and fraternal bond shared by those impetuous sons of Zeus, the Dioskouri. Moreover, the ancient iconographic representations of the Twins as wearing an egg-shell helmet—a pilos—may reflect an I-E tradition according to which the first man and his twin were born by divine word (logos) and not through any vessel as lowly and unclean as a woman’s private part. Lastly, we recall that in the literature the main woman in the Twins’ lives—their sister, Helen of Sparta (later of Troy)is less often conceived of as a flesh-and-blood woman than as a phantom or aerial spirit who blows where she will. The implication is that, according to the I-E homogenesis, the womanly element in reproduction and/or erotic yoking is—not unlike a filioquist Holy Ghost—reduced to being the “bond of love,” or pneumatic energy of the lover, who is able to penetrate the subtle soul-envelope of his mirror-image, the younger Twin who is also a “son” [3].

In true I-E fashion, the Spartans viewed the spoken word as a thing of power, modeled as it was on the divine pattern, according to which a god’s creation comes forth as a seminal logos. Jupiter— Lat. Diespiter, “Zeus Father” [4]—creates a son, and if the conduit be a woman, it is not without shame (or at least it is not without trouble) for the god sometimes called Hyes, “the moist, fertile One.” Words (and fluids) are not taken lightly in such a culture. Emission allows the syssition to replenish itself with beautiful youths; indeed without such male regeneration the Spartan mannerbund would peter out completely. However, the actual reproductive act requires a Pandora’s box to be opened—the non-male body must be entered in order that a male child exit. The Spartans assuaged their anxiety at male-female crossing by sequestering all male youths into the above-mentioned syssitia, which were private military clubs organized around verbal and sexual indoctrination (the emitted logos and the spermatic logos, one might say) that countenanced heterosexual intercourse only as disguised (and thus “licit”) male-on-male eros.

The I-E Divine Twins Castor and Pollux were referenced above as being closest to Spartans’ hearts, but another I-E hero-deity—Heracles—was undoubtedly a close third. Though schoolboys are taught of Heracles’ twelve labors, few are cognizant of the great warrior’s more bizarre proclivities. We now turn to the greatest of Roman biographers to suggest that Heracles may have served as a model for the Spartans’ cross-dressing ways.

Plutarch mentions a legend concerning Heracles’ wrestling match with a shepherd named Antagoras. The wrestling match provokes a full-scale battle between the Greeks (on Heracles’ side) and the Meropes (on Antagoras’ side). Plutarch tells us what happens next:

In the struggle it is said that Heracles, being exhausted by the multitude of his adversaries, fled to the house of a Thracian woman; there, disguising himself in feminine garb, he managed to escape detection. But later, when he had overcome the Meropes in another encounter, and had been purified, he married Chalciopê and assumed a gay-coloured raiment. Wherefore the priest sacrifices on the spot where it came about that the battle was fought, and bridegrooms wear feminine raiment when they welcome their brides [5].

In this passage, Plutarch is trying to explain why the priest of Heracles at Antimacheia performs sacrifices wearing a garment and a headdress fit only for a woman. Notice that Heracles, failing to prove his virility by defeating Antagoras, becomes enervated. Like the younger boy in the syssition who is chased into a secluded camp in order to be violated by an older man, Heracles is obliged to retreat to a space designated for licit intercourse. However, Heracles also retreats in terms of virtú, for he mirrors the Spartan woman’s practice of donning the opposite gender’s garb. Later, once Heracles has overcome his once-dominant counterpart, defeating Antagoras and the Meropes in battle (in other words, once Heracles becomes a “sponsor” as opposed to being a recipient in the manly exchange), he can don “gay-coloured” clothes—a dress, essentially—all so that the entry into marital contact avoids male-female crossing. The husband becomes parallel to the woman, underscoring the Spartan strategy of separation of the male sphere from the deadly force of all things femalethe latter power being chthonic, ghastly, damp, gaseous, decayed. Though it may seem downright Warholian to follow the Greeks and Romans in picturing the manliest of men, Heracles, in drag, doing so brings home just how powerful an influence the I-E homogenetic mytheme had on the Spartans, a people so obsessed with their Scytho-Dorian heritage that they accepted Lycurgus’ law code as a harsh but needful return to the “good old days.”

The Spartans thought of the marital encounter as a sacred act engaged in after a long abstinence from sexual relations. During the period of abstention the husband’s reproductive fluid would be built-up, the better to conceive a healthy child [6]. And “healthy” meant, for the Spartans, a male child with warrior potential. In like manner, the Spartan paideia was based upon a retention of all extraneous verbiage: when the dignified silence kept by the older, experienced Spartans was occasionally broken, the sophic ejaculate was capable of penetrating deep into the youths’ somatic envelopes, into that luminous place in the pneuma where memory and imagination are housed. However, we are getting ahead of ourselves somewhat. Before moving forward to investigate the tradition of Platonic eros and its later manifestations in the West, we must first go back into the Scythian mists, to a time when soma was more fluid than body…

[Next Post: I-E 3, Soma and the Indo-European Homogenesis]


[1] Note that, in Greek myth, humanity was originally created by Prometheus as an all-male fraternity, and that Pandora was sent to give mankind all the evils of existence, but also “hope.” I contend that this hope was the promise of immortality through the bearing of sons, that is, through the male warrior’s capacity to create a mirror-image or duplicate of himself. The woman’s role in this process was usually not celebrated without misgivings. The Vedas provide corroborative evidence that the original I-E concept of immortality had nothing to do with reincarnation or karma as conceived in various versions of Western esotericism, but rather reflected the individual male’s hope of creating a son to somehow counteract the surety that death will remove him from his tribe. On Sparta as a self-consciously I-E society, see Nigel M. Kennell, The Gymnasium of Virtue: Education and Culture in Ancient Sparta (Chapel Hill and London: University of North Carolina Press, 1995), 14-15.

On the Spartans’ specific attention to the worship of Zeus and Athena as a pair, see Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, translated by E.C. Marchant and G.W. Bowersock, accessed online 5 January, 2015:, 28.

[2] Recall the elite core of the Theban army, the Sacred Band whose example shone as a beacon and archetype for all Spartan warriors. Plutarch’s Life of Pelopidas tells of this core of 150 couples, each pair being made from an older warriors, an erastes, and a younger counterpart, a beloved (eromenos). These warrior-lovers apparently saw their sexual relations as sacred since their bond was formalized at the shrine of Iolaus, who was a beau of Heracles. It should be borne in mind that the Thebans were self-consciously Dorian in their culture, and this was recognized by the equally Dorianophile Spartans. The latter often—though not always—kept on good terms with the Thebans, and some scholars believe this may have much to do with their (perceived) common I-E Dorian heritage. Another connection exists between the Thebans and the Macedonians. Philip II was a captive in Thebes when Pelopides was boeotarch. The latter led a Theban army—with the Sacred Band at its head—to victory against the Spartans at the battle of Tegyra around this time. When Philip returned to Macedon, he doubtless told his son Alexander much about his Theban hosts, though the Macedonians needed no indoctrination into the ways of Scytho-Dorian eros. In place of an expansive discussion, we note here that Alexander (who considered himself divine, for which see Ian Worthington, Alexander the Great: Man and God [Abingdon, Oxon, UK: Routledge, 2014]) raised his lover and warrior-frater Hephaestion to the status of a demigod (idem., 281-282).

On the Spartan veneration of Castor and Pollux, Kennell says the following:

Castor and Pollux were the divine counterparts and guarantors of the city’s double kingship. Until a dispute between kings Cleomenes and Demaratus in the late sixth century, both divine brothers used to accompany the two monarchs on campaign; afterward, when only one king at a time was permitted to lead an army out of the country, the twins took turns. Indeed, Spartan kings could count themselves distant successors of their fellow citizens Castor and Pollux through Menelaus, husband of Helen.

The Dioscuri thus stood at the very center of the Spartan polity, at once the legitimators of its royal houses and the embodiment of the ideal ephebe. From his first year as a pais until he left the hebontes, a young Spartan was led to shun the monstrous and uncivilized that lurked outside and to model himself after the Dioscuri so that he might incarnate the virtues they represented. This is no rhetorical exaggeration because…the best young Spartans were in fact associated with the Tyndaridae” (Gymnasium of Virtue, 138-139).

[3] In his Mystagogy of the Holy Spirit, Saint Photius claims that the Western Christian dogma of the filioque leads inexorably to the notion that Christ’s flesh and blood body gives birth to the Holy Spirit (Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Series Graeca, edited by J.P. Migne [Paris: Imprimerie Catholique, 1857-1866], 102:313D; cited in Joseph P. Farrell, Free Choice in St. Maximos the Confessor [South Canann, PA: St. Tikhon’s Seminary Press, 1989], 206). This filioquist materialization of the prior heresy of Arius, who merely failed to distinguish between divine generation and divine creation, is the probable origin of the strange Frankish tradition that the Holy Spirit took on material form as a dove in order to deliver the Holy Ampoule to the consecration of the Frankish king Clovis. Not only has the Third Person of the Holy Trinity somehow become incarnate (as an irrational beast[!]), but so has the “grace” become materialized, the oil in the Ampoule being analogous to the Soma of the Scythians and the Indo-Iranians (but more on the Soma connection in a later post).

[4] On the etymology of “Zeus” and “Jupiter,” see M.L. West, Indo-European Poetry and Myth (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 166-167.

[5] Plutarch, Greek Questions, 58. I have used the Babbitt translation: Plutarch, Moralia, Volume IV, translated by Frank Cole Babbitt (Harvard: Harvard University Press, 1936), 246, 248. Accessed 27 November, 2014,

[6] Xenophon, Constitution of the Lacedaimonians, 3.

This entry was posted in Ancient Religions, Antiquity, Dorians, Greeks, Hellenes, History of Marriage, History of Sexuality, Indo-European Culture, Indo-European Divine Twins, Indo-European Homogenesis, Indo-European Religion, Seven Sages, Soma, Sophiology, Spartans and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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